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Common Signs of Postpartum Preeclampsia and When to Get Help

pregnant woman looking at blood pressure monitor

It’s believed that of reported preeclampsia cases, almost 6% happen after birth. While recovering and postpartum, knowing the warning signs and when to get medical help is essential.

Your obstetrician undoubtedly warned you about the dangers of preeclampsia during your pregnancy. They performed regular checkups to mitigate your risk and advised you of the best course of treatment if the condition occurred.

Editor’s note: this article is for informational purposes and is not medical advice. If you believe you are experiencing postpartum preeclampsia, please seek proper medical care and treatment immediately. This article is not intended to diagnose postpartum preeclampsia.

pregnant woman looking at blood pressure monitor

However, the danger doesn’t entirely disappear once you give birth. Although rare, some women develop preeclampsia after delivery. While the baby may be free and clear, moms still face dangers. 

What should you know as you prepare for your due date? Here are the common signs of postpartum preeclampsia and when to get help.  

How common is postpartum preeclampsia, and what are the risks? 

Although preeclampsia is less common after delivery than during pregnancy, it can happen whether you had high blood pressure while expecting or not. Postpartum preeclampsia typically occurs within the first 48 hours after giving birth, although you remain at risk for up to six weeks. 

Preeclampsia can be fatal and lead to severe medical complications, like seizures and permanent organ damage. That’s why you should know the symptoms and where to go for care if they occur.

Your obstetrician should review postpartum care for the mother and child before you leave the hospital. They’ll ensure you have access to follow-up care and help connect you with public assistance to defray costs before they discharge you. 

However, sometimes you have to be proactive. Before leaving the hospital, ask about home-based primary care options.

Squeezing in another appointment when you have a new baby is tricky, but this method lets you chat with a licensed individual from home. These providers can access your medical information at your virtual consultation and help you determine whether you should call an ambulance. 

folder with preeclampsia written on it

Preeclampsia after birth symptoms you should know 

Giving birth is strenuous — you’re sure to feel as tired as if you’ve just run a marathon. While it’s natural to dismiss discomfort as regular afterbirth pains, some symptoms you experience in the first days with your new baby may require urgent attention.

Take note of the following preeclampsia after birth symptoms you should know and contact your primary care provider if you experience:

  • High blood pressure. Contact your provider if your numbers are 140/90 or higher. 
  • Stomach pain.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Swelling in hands, feet, or face.
  • Shortness of breath.

Additionally, you should call 911 immediately if you have difficulty breathing, experience seizures, or have blood pressure greater than 160/110. 

You’ll have to keep track of your blood pressure in the first weeks following birth. Fortunately, you can pick up these devices at nearly any drug store or order them online for less than $50 — perhaps add one to your registry? 

Read next: 15 Must-Have Postpartum Items to Add to Your Baby Registry

See Also

postpartum mom lying in bed with a headache

Postpartum preeclampsia recovery — tips for speedier healing

While it’s not entirely known what causes preeclampsia in some people, some factors increase your risks of developing it, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney issues.

Techniques for helping to prevent postpartum preeclampsia echo those used to control blood pressure and include the following: 

  • Eat a low-salt diet: The DASH diet is good for lowering your blood pressure by restricting your sodium consumption before and after birth and while expecting. 
  • Eat foods high in potassium: You can safely lower your systolic and diastolic numbers by consuming more potassium-rich foods like bananas, potatoes, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables in general. 
  • Limit alcohol consumption: Even one drink temporarily spikes your blood pressure, and you shouldn’t drink while breastfeeding. You should also remain sober throughout pregnancy to avoid fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • Don’t smoke: Smoking increases your blood pressure by narrowing your artery walls, leaving less room for blood to flow. It also harms your developing infant. 
  • Exercise: While this tip is trickier to follow with a new baby, it’s not impossible. Look for apps that feature short workouts you can do in five to ten-minute bursts — YouTube has some for free — and invest in a quality stroller for afternoon walks. 
  • Lower your stress levels: It’s okay if you read this tip and chuckled, “Yeah, right, with a new baby.” Laughter is one way to lower your stress, so replay your favorite comedies when your infant won’t stop crying. Put that support system to good use — let the in-laws babysit while you relax in a bubble bath or run to the store without hassling with the car seat. 
  • Get adequate sleep: Cue that laughter again. Although it may seem challenging with an infant, embrace naps to get the rest you need, especially if you struggle with high blood pressure. 

Additionally, you might experiment with more probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt. Recent research suggests that these beneficial bacteria may prevent preeclampsia.

They also improve your mood by helping your gut make serotonin, a neurotransmitter you probably know as a happy one, potentially easing postpartum depression symptoms. 

Hastening postpartum preeclampsia recovery means following your doctor’s orders. Please take any prescribed medications as directed and implement recommended lifestyle changes. 

new mom and baby in the hospital bed

Know the common signs of postpartum preeclampsia and when to get help

Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to permanent damage even when not fatal. Knowing the signs can help keep you safe. 

Your new baby needs you. Recognize these common signs of postpartum preeclampsia mentioned above so that you can be there for every step as they grow.

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